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Kid biz eyes freedom from D.C. regulation

Panelist discuss self-regulation, ambiguous FCC standards

Visit Variety’s NATPE special report.

From ReporterTV: View streaming interviews from from NATPE today.

Memo to the feds: You worry about your business, we’ll worry about ours.

That was the overriding opinion of execs in the kid-TV biz at a panel Wedensday titled “The ABC’s of Kid-Friendly TV.”

Madelyn Bonnet, senior VP of operations at Emmis Communications, declared her disapproval of government inference in what programmers can and should develop as well as when stations can air kid-appropriate shows.

“Government should have no say (when it comes to content), and they shouldn’t tell us that we have to have three hours,” said Bonnet.

“It’s the broadcasters and cablecasters that have to take responsibility for their shows,” said Tom Lynch, CEO of his self-titled company. Lynch eventually softened the rhetoric, adding, “Being challenged by some sources is not unhealthy.”

As VP of program development for Nickelodeon, Doug Greiff was in the envious position as being at a network that is geared specifically for children and whose ratings, including those of sister station Nick Jr., have increased dramatically over the past year.

“We’re viewed as a safe haven for kids,” he said. “We’re tougher on ourselves than we would be regarding any FCC guidelines.”

Content conversation

And then there was the question of what exactly the FCC is looking for when it comes to content.

“Every time we hear about policy, it’s always around election time,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with them for 20 years, and I can’t define what an FCC-acceptable show is.”

Earlier in the week at a NATPE panel, new Federal Communications chairman Michael Powell hinted that he probably wouldn’t be imposing new requirements on the kids-TV industry.

“I don’t know if the FCC is a qualified player,” said Powell, recently tapped by President Bush to head the org. “I’m a devout fan of the First Amendment.”

Teen beat

Also of interest was what teens are watching in the new millennium. Greiff mentioned that the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity” were often mentioned in focus groups of 9- to 11-year-olds when asked what they prefer to watch.

These two primetime skeins often deal with issues regarding sex and drug use, and their content could certainly be considered too adult for children who haven’t even reached double digits.

“Parental involvement is what we really should be pushing,” Bonnet said.

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